How do you make decisions? In all certainty, your answer will be a lot different to those of other people. Decision-making is never a singular thought process for everybody. It is hugely impacted by our values and even by how our brains work. Neurodivergent people will understand what this means. In this episode, Whitney Lauritsen talks about how therapy taught her to define her values. She shares a recent incident where she was forced to make a tough travel-related decision that opened up an internal discussion on how much her values mattered to her and how they impact the way she makes decisions. When making decisions, how much room do you give for your own needs to be met versus other people’s needs? It’s a tough question that Whitney tries to answer in this podcast. Tune in and share with us if you’ve had a similar experience!
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How Values Impact Decision Making
I’m recording this episode on October 8th, 2022. I was supposed to be en route to Martha’s Vineyard. This is going to be the story of how that trip didn’t happen and what I’m learning from that. If you didn’t know, Martha’s Vineyard is an island off the coast of Massachusetts. I have a friend whose family has a house out there that I’ve been wanting to go visit for years, but it’s proven to be a challenge. Since it’s an island, you have to take a ferry there. There’s a lot of coordination. This year, my friend and I made a plan to go out there, and it turned out to be complicated. I learned a lot of lessons from that experience that I want to share.
Through my exploration of neurodivergence, I have been learning a lot about my brain and other people’s brains too. Also, through therapy, I’ve been learning a lot about myself and different tools. I used this situation with travel as an opportunity to put into practice some things I learned from my therapist. I’ll take you through that process and use this as a time to process out loud. Maybe this will be helpful to you too.
How Therapy Helped Me Understand My Values
I struggle a lot when it comes to making decisions. I wonder how much of that could be related to the strong chance that I have a neurodiverse brain. The reason I put it that way is I still feel uncomfortable publicly saying I’m neurodivergent. I find myself saying that sometimes confidently and other times, feeling unsure about using that word. It is a word that I use because I believe that I have ADHD and/or autism. It could be something else, but the more that I learn about those two ways how the brain works, the more I identify.
I read for the second time this quote that if you think that you have ADHD or autism, that’s all you’re focused on, thinking about all the time, and researching it, you probably have it. The fact that you’re doing all those things is a trait mostly of autism. It’s tricky. I’ve talked a lot about this, but in the context of this conversation, it is worth mentioning. I’ve heard a lot about self-diagnosis being a valid thing, especially for autism. It’s incredibly common for women to realize that they have ADHD and/or autism together. It’s common for the two to be together, and for women to realize that later in their life around this time of age that I’m in. That gives me some comfort.
I also feel so seen by my therapist who’s going to be a part of this dialogue today. He shared with me that he has ADHD himself. He has held space for me to start exploring this. We haven’t fully gotten into it with our therapy. It has been an interesting process because I’ve had 5 or 6 sessions with him. I believe we do twelve in total as part of the program through my insurance. I can’t remember if I was this transparent about it, but I had an episode where I talked more about my therapy process.
I feel grateful for the therapist that I got assigned randomly through my insurance, which is covering this therapy program for me. I want to acknowledge that therapy can feel hard to access for a lot of people. Figuring out how to find a therapist can be challenging. It took me a while to spend the time to go through the process. I found it confusing with my insurance, even though my insurance covers the therapy program that I’m in. I was nervous about who I was going to be assigned to, but I lucked out.
I’ve heard so many stories of people not aligning with therapists. I’ve had therapists in the past that I didn’t enjoy or that I didn’t find effective for me and my brain. It’s a true blessing. I’m also working on finding more resources so other people can get therapy or provide the option to do well-being coaching, which is something that I will be offering more forwardly later on.
I’m finding a huge passion based on my personal experiences. I’m seeing how much of an impact it is making to work with somebody who I feel seen by. I feel like my therapist hears me and holds space for me. I feel so safe with him that every time I have a session, which is once a week, I can’t help but cry. It’s so interesting.
After my most recent session, I was reflecting on why I get so choked up. Within minutes of getting onto our video call, I feel like all the tears and the tension of crying come up for me. I feel a need to hold back. I’m trying to figure out if I should try to get myself to cry before the session just to release all of that emotion, but I don’t even realize that I’m going to cry until I have the session with him. It’s an interesting thing. I wonder if it’s because I feel so safe. I wonder if it’s because I feel understood by him and if that’s indicating that I don’t feel safe and understood by most people in my life. He doesn’t even say anything that triggers those tears. It’s just him. It’s his presence, and it’s a positive thing.
In our last session, my voice changed because I was choked up. It’s safe for me to cry, but I don’t want to cry. I feel a bit uncomfortable crying. It’s teaching me so much about myself, but also giving me an emotional relief and release that I didn’t even realize that I needed. In this therapy session, my therapist was sharing the importance of understanding my strengths and values. We did this exercise across a few different sessions. It has been a bit broken up.
He’s got a lovely style of having a bit of an agenda and structure that he wants to get through in the course of our twelve sessions together, but he’ll put that on pause to focus on whatever I need in the present moment. As a result, this practice of identifying my strengths and values has taken us a few sessions to get through.
He had me spend time reflecting on my strengths and values. At first, I found that challenging. I wasn’t even sure what the point of it was, but that ties into this experience of trying to go to Martha’s Vineyard. At first, I had trouble getting clarity on my strengths. I went back and looked at some notes I had written in the past.
Part of how my brain works is I have trouble not remembering things, but memorizing things. I’ve always known this about myself. I use tools like digital note-taking and organizing to be able to recall things like flashcards. If I look at something often enough, I’ll remember it. If I don’t look at it often enough, I need a reference to go back to and it needs to be accessible. Fortunately, I had focused a bit on my strengths in the past. It was mostly around my career like how I pitch myself to clients or new work opportunities.
It was an interesting opportunity to go through with the therapist. Part of my practice was to pull up a list of strengths to get all the options, and then figure out which I aligned with. I ended up coming up with quite a long list, which was empowering. Through the process of the therapy, I recognized that there were nuances to strengths. I came up with a list of over twenty things, and then I started organizing them together.
My number one strength on my list is being organized. A lot of people say this about me, but I hesitate to make that one of my top strengths. I feel like that’s a coping mechanism. I feel like I’m doing that because I’ve struggled with things and I want to be organized to get by. It’s hard for me to say that’s a strength. I know that other people admire that because people tell me that all the time. They feel impressed by it. People point out that they think it’s unique and helpful, but it stresses me out, to be honest. Ironically, I use organizing to decrease my stress, but organizing feels stressful. It’s interesting.
I wrote out this whole list, and then through my therapy sessions, I identified my top five. If you’re curious, I have the technology, which I knew was my top. Saying that in my sessions with my therapist lights me up. I feel so proud and grateful that technology is a strength of mine. My whole life, it has been a strength of mine. I have always been someone that can fix technology. I understand it. It feels good to use. I get excited about it.
The second one is curiosity. That’s something people point out about me all the time. I haven’t always identified it as a strength, but over the years, I’ve leaned into it more and embraced it. I started to feel proud of it. I was grateful to see that on the list. Curiosity did not just come up as a strength, but it also came up in the values list I looked at. It’s in both. I have curiosity as a strength and a value. That’s a core to me.Curiosity can be both a strength and a value. Click To Tweet
Number three in my strength is problem-solving. Although, I feel a little iffy about it. I know that it is a strength. It’s something else people point out about me. I notice it as being on the unique side and helpful, but I also wonder how much of a coping mechanism that is. It shows up even in things like people-pleasing. I’m still reflecting on that one.
Thoughtfulness is another strength of mine, and enthusiastic. Those are things that I hear from other people and that I have noted as helpful in situations, and I feel good about them. There’s a variety of others that I have in here that I’m still toying around with. I encourage you to consider your own strengths and write them out. You can look at lists like I have. It’s helpful in a lot of contexts.
The value side is what ties into the situation of going to Martha’s Vineyard. My values list was a little bit shorter. It was probably between 10 and 15 values that I came up with. A number of them were similar to each other. Number one in my values is authenticity. That one is so top of my mind for me even though the word authenticity has been used as a buzzword or a trendy thing. It’s used a lot in marketing. It has lost its authenticity ironically, but it’s the easiest way for me to describe something that’s important to me. It has been my whole life. I wasn’t clear about that until recently.
The second is curiosity. The third of my values is justice. My therapist told me that the fact that justice is the top value for me in itself is an indicator of neurodivergence. I had an interesting experience on TikTok. I end up seeing a lot of content about neurodivergence on TikTok. There are a lot of women talking about what it means for them to have ADHD and/or autism.
This one woman said in her video that justice amongst some other elements of her was an indicator that she was neurodivergent. I commented, “My therapist said the same thing.” This other woman in the comments section of TikTok said, “Are you saying that neurotypical people don’t care about justice? That makes me uncomfortable.” It turned into this whole back and forth where I was like, “That’s not what I was saying.” This other person jumped in. All of a sudden, there was all this tension around justice. It was interesting. We worked it all out, these strangers and I, discussing this and clarifying it.
I thought that’s a little interesting side note because this is something that I’m still trying to figure out too. The nuances of neurodivergence are fascinating. How do you know? Do you have these traits that lean you toward that direction? Does everybody have these traits? It’s tricky. That leans me towards wanting to get formally diagnosed. It’s something my therapist and I are going to discuss in a session, which I will fill you in on once I learn more about the pros and cons of a formal medical evaluation and diagnosis.
The fourth value of mine is acceptance. That’s interesting to say out loud. What I mean by acceptance is mostly around not being judgmental of people. It’s accepting others and accepting myself. It’s something I strive for. I’m not great at it. I certainly have judgments. Whenever I catch myself or others being judgmental, it stands out and I find myself yearning for acceptance. That’s why I identify that as a value. The fifth is caring.
The Planned Trip To Martha’s Vineyard
The context in which these values have played a role in my situation with Martha’s Vineyard makes more sense when I describe it. For years, my good friend has been inviting me to go to Martha’s Vineyard every time I come out here to visit Massachusetts. My good friend lives a little bit farther away from Martha’s Vineyard and my parents. She has children and her family has a house out there. There are a lot of barriers to going like the time to get there and the coordination of schedules.
I haven’t been to Martha’s Vineyard in a long time. It feels familiar because I grew up going there off and on. Massachusetts is a common place to go on vacations. You can take a ferry there for $10. I don’t remember if the island itself is super expensive because most of my experiences out there were with my family. I have been there with families when I was babysitting. I used to do a lot of that growing up. It would also be friends, so all the expenses would be taken care of. I barely had to pay for anything. This would be my first time going as an adult where money was a consideration.
I always think about money when I do something. There’s driving somewhere and parking. I was thinking I was going to drive my car on the ferry as I did when I was up in Washington and Vancouver. Earlier in my trip, I took a few ferries. I drove my car on. It wasn’t a big deal, but when I looked on the website for Martha’s Vineyard ferries, it turned out quite expensive to drive a car to the island. It was a minimum of $75 one way. It might have been $100 or $150. It was some crazy number, which I paid around the same amount of money when I was on the Vancouver ferries. Looking at that contrast is interesting.
I went to Vancouver Island to see a friend for 24 hours. Contrasting that to this Martha’s Vineyard experience has been interesting because somehow, I was able to do that Vancouver trip very fluidly. I remember seeing the prices for that ferry and being like, “That’s expensive,” but I had already committed to going. Technically, I had committed to going to Martha’s Vineyard too when I was looking at those prices, but it hit me differently. It’s interesting how when you’re trying to make decisions on things, two things can be similar, but you can have a vastly different experiences. Things can come up for you differently. This is why my therapist had me do this values exercise.
There’s the financial side of getting somewhere. Crossing over water is a whole other scenario. At first, I wanted to take my car to Martha’s Vineyard before I realized how expensive it was. It wasn’t even possible because you have to book so far in advance to take a car over there. I started to get concerned because my plan was to leave my parents’ place, go to Martha’s Vineyard, and then start making my way South in the United States to head back West to Los Angeles. It’s the tail end of my trip out here, and Martha’s Vineyard is south of my parents. I’m like “I’m going to keep going south,” which means I have to pack up everything for my parents, say goodbye to them, load up my car, and bring my dog. It was a whole ordeal. That’s when things started to get tough.
First, I had decided I don’t feel comfortable leaving my car in a parking lot, taking a ferry to go to an island for a few days, and coming back. I was like, “Would my car be safe?” A friend had to assure me that it is very safe there because these islands have a lot of wealthy people. The parking lots are full of high-end cars and they’re monitored. With all those variables, it seemed unlikely that someone was going to break into my car and steal all my camping stuff, but it is still a consideration.
I then started talking to my friend that I’m supposed to go to Martha’s Vineyard with and said, “These are the times I’m looking at for the ferry. Does this work for you? Also, is there anything I should know in terms of what we’re going to do plan-wise?” I wanted to pack the right clothes and also not overpack. I’m someone that needs these details. This is something that I’ve learned for myself. It makes me feel more comfortable and confident when I have every detail outlined.
The fact that I’m very organized and detail-oriented feels like a strength, a coping mechanism, or maybe a neurodivergent thing. I need a lot of accommodations in order to feel emotionally safe, confident, and secure. That’s a huge part of this story because I started thinking through it step-by-step. This is also how my brain works. I’m not a “get up, go, and figure it out” person. I never have been, especially when it comes to travel.
I’ll go on a little tangent here to share. It’s bringing up memories of when I was in college. I studied abroad in the Netherlands. As students, we had opportunities to travel throughout Europe. I remember every time I traveled being this exact way as I’m describing. I would outline every detail. Nobody else I traveled with was like that. Some of them enjoyed that about me. They’re like, “That is great. You’re going to figure out when the train leaves and what hotel or hostel we’re staying at. You’re going to budget this out for us. That is awesome.” Some people would feel annoyed like, “Can we just go and wing it the whole time?”
Back then, I had no identification as being neurodivergent. I could feel my preference for all of these details when it comes to planning. The fact that I was different and surrounded by people that didn’t think like me didn’t seem to have the same needs, and didn’t seem to care has led me in my life with a whole ripple effect of frustration, feeling out of sync with others, and experiencing tension socially. It has been difficult for me. In hindsight, I’ve coped with it enough that I didn’t even realize how difficult it was until recently. The situation has been super interesting to notice.
The contrast between this trip to Martha’s Vineyard through a ferry, these expenses, and a trip across the country is interesting with that Vancouver trip. Since I had never been to Vancouver or Vancouver Island, it felt unfamiliar to me. The big difference is the person I was visiting on Vancouver Island could be neurodivergent as well or at least is somebody who communicates and answers questions in a way that made me feel secure, versus this friend that I was supposed to go to Martha’s Vineyard with. She is a super close friend that I’ve known for almost my entire life, but the communication challenges were present. I didn’t have the security that I did for Vancouver Island.
Vancouver Island felt easier, but it was still an obstacle. It was still expensive and time-consuming. Another element was I was barely there. When I look back on how much it cost for me to take these ferries, I’m sure it was close to $200 or maybe $150 to go to Vancouver Island for 24 hours. I remember doing the math and saying, “It’s worth it. I want to go there. I’m curious.” I also knew what I was in for. I knew that I would get there and what the meals would be. I knew that I would get there and where I’ would be sleeping. I knew that my dog was welcome there and they were expecting my dog. I knew approximately what we were going to do, the timeline, and when I was leaving. That stuff turns out to be incredibly helpful for me, if not crucial.
Whereas in this Martha’s Vineyard experience, I kept asking my friend, “What time are you going to get to Martha’s Vineyard?” I wanted to sync up with this friend. I had no idea when they were going to go. I was like, “What time are you leaving Martha’s Vineyard?” I wanted to figure out when I would leave. I had no idea. It was communicated to me like, “Get there whenever you want and leave whenever you want.” Maybe to some people, that sounds awesome, but my brain doesn’t work that way. I want to know what time. It’s so important to me. It’s not that I can’t operate more loosely. It’s that it’s deeply uncomfortable for me.
A Wrench Gets Thrown My Way
This is where it all starts to fall apart because something got thrown in the way or an obstacle appeared that none of us was expecting. Less than 24 hours before I was supposed to go to Martha’s Vineyard, I was clarifying with my friend about what I should bring and what I shouldn’t bring. I didn’t want to lug a whole ton of luggage over there for just a few days. This is part of why I need to know when I’m getting there, what I’m eating, and do I need to bring food. I think about packing and what am I leaving behind in my car, and what needs to be secured in my car. All this stuff feels important to me.
As I’m going through this conversation, I mentioned Evie, my dog. Suddenly, my friend says, “There’s a no-dog policy at the house.” It was so interesting to get that information because I thought my friend knew that I was bringing my dog. I don’t even know why I thought that. Maybe it’s because my dog usually comes with me to places. It felt like a given, but that was a total assumption on my end. It never occurred to me that she wouldn’t be allowed at this house. In hindsight, I’m like, “That makes sense. I should have clarified this and should have asked,” but this is a super close friend. It never occurred to me that this would be an issue.
It’s an interesting thing when in hindsight, you’re like, “Why didn’t my brain work in that way?” Sometimes, our brains just don’t. Sometimes, we don’t think of things. Even for someone like me who’s super organized and detail-oriented, it still didn’t occur to me. My friend didn’t think to ask and clarify. My friend certainly didn’t assume I was bringing my dog, so it was a huge missed opportunity. At that moment, I got a wrench thrown my way. I was like, “What do I do with my dog? Do I stay home and not go? Do I leave my dog with my parents and then come back and get her?”
The latter seemed like it could work, but to get from my parent’s house to my friend’s house in Martha’s Vineyard is about a four-hour excursion. It’s about a two-hour drive to the ferry. You then have to park, take a shuttle, wait for the ferry, get on the ferry, ride the ferry, land on the island, and then get to the house. There are all of those steps. It’s not super complicated. It’s not something I’ve never done before, but when I have all those steps, my brain gets so overwhelmed.
I was completely prepared to do that, but what I wasn’t prepared to do was the opposite side of getting to the ferry again, coming back across, getting my car, driving all the way back to my parent’s place, and packing up my car again because I probably would’ve left stuff here. I would then have to go in the same direction towards the island to my next destination. It’s something I wasn’t expecting. That’s where the challenge became. That’s when I thought, “This is where I get stuck.”
Where my brain struggles the most is unexpected changes. My brain process, visualize and plan so far in advance that if something shifts in that plan that feels significant or complicated, my brain stalls. When my brain stalls like that, I feel a sense of panic. That coping mechanism to make decisions and organize something new, my brain starts to work hard and panic a little bit. I feel pressured and overwhelmed, especially with having to make a time-sensitive decision. Sometimes, that works to my advantage. In fact, a lot of times, it does. Having a deadline to make a decision is sometimes the only way that I can make a decision.
When I’m presented with too many options or too many variables in a short period of time, and I feel the pressure to make that decision for other people, I almost can’t figure out what’s best for me. In fact, that might be the overarching experience here. I was trying to figure out what was best for me in this situation. What did I want?
The idea of Martha’s Vineyard sounds appealing, but getting there and having so many unknowns completely overshadowed it. I kept thinking, “I’ve done this before,” not just Martha’s Vineyard, but in general. I did Vancouver Island. There were still unknowns there, although my friend did an excellent job giving me all the details about the Vancouver Island experience. Nothing was unexpected there. It all went according to plan. Whereas Martha’s Vineyard had this looming unknown. I didn’t know when my friend was going to get there and leave, so I didn’t know when I was going to get there and leave. I didn’t know what we were going to eat or when. These are important things for me. I didn’t know where I was going to be sleeping or if I would have my own room. It was all these unknowns.
What Does Authentic Even Mean?
I toyed around with this idea of, “What if I could embrace that? What if I go and experience it?” At this moment, something comes up for me that says, “What’s the priority here?” This is where the values come into play. Certainly, I’m capable of embracing the unknowns and the discomfort, but do I want to? Is that important for me? It is the value of the authenticity rate. What was authentic to me in this situation?
It’s not clear to me what’s authentic for other people. That’s a big key. Authenticity is a huge value. What would be helpful in those moments is if someone was straightforward like, “This is what matters to me.” What was being conveyed to me was my friend kept saying things like, “I’m flexible.” I don’t know if that friend was saying I’m flexible for me or she’s flexible for her. It was unattached. That’s incredibly hard for my brain. I need clarity.
Authenticity means clarity too. I’m like, “What is important? What matters here? What’s real?” When somebody is too up for anything or neutral, I struggle. It was an opportunity then to say, “What do I need?” What I need that has been very clear is I need a plan or I need details. Even the word need is tricky to use. It’s hard for me. I don’t need it to survive. It’s just that I prefer it.Authenticity means clarity, too. What is important? What matters? What's real? Click To Tweet
Ultimately, because I wasn’t given a strong plan, I will opt for my preference to have a plan. Staying at my parent’s house with my dog had security. It was a sure thing. My parents were happy for me to stay here longer. In fact, I’m sure they preferred that too. The authenticity and value at that moment became this staying at my parents. It was more authentic than going somewhere with tons of unknowns because I don’t like unknowns. Unknowns don’t feel authentic to me, even though unknowns are authentic to life. That’s part of the human experience. Life is unknown. Nothing is ever a sure thing. That is true and authentic.
When you’re comparing two options, if the preference is for the known, then that’s authentic to my needs. It’s so nuanced. This is part of this exercise I’m trying to do if I’m not being clear about that. Why did my therapist want me to outline my values? I believe the reason is to help me process these tough emotional things.
Curiosity is an interesting thing here. I’m curious about going to Martha’s Vineyard. That sounds attractive. I haven’t been there in a long time. I’m curious about what my friend’s family’s house is like out there. I’m curious about what the experience is like taking the ferry after all these years. I probably haven’t been out there in ten-plus years, or maybe longer. It may be 15 or 20. It has been a very long time. My curiosity pulls me towards that stuff. I don’t know if my curiosity was pulling me here. I don’t know how that value falls in line here.
Three is justice. Justice in a situation like this is more like fairness even though they’re not exactly the same thing. Equality, ethics, and all of those lump into a similar category or the same category. That was challenging because my friend had been making plans with her family. Her kids were packing their bags. I don’t even know if my friend is still going to Martha’s Vineyard without me. That hasn’t even been clear or authentic to me. I’m someone that generally keeps two plans out of courtesy for other people and for myself. I feel more comfortable sticking to a plan that feels in alignment with fairness. I’m like, “We decided on something.” It feels fair.
With the variable with my dog, how did justice come into play with that? Justice is I’m justified in feeling insecure, unsafe and uncomfortable. The plan did change. I was willing to stick with the original plan, but when something got thrown into this situation, there was no longer a plan. Justice comes into play with I’m justified in choosing the new plan that feels more authentic to me. I would love my therapist to talk about this. I might try to talk through this with him because I’m like, “Am I thinking about this in a way that best serves me?” I’m not sure. Maybe you can share that with me too. I’m curious about your thoughts on this.
Here’s the thing. You could share your thoughts with me, but that doesn’t mean that your thoughts are authentic to me. That’s something I’m working through. I tend to default to what other people think, what other people want, and what serves them. Maybe that’s part of the justice side or the caring side. That’s a huge value of mine. I care about what other people think. I care about what works for them. If you were to share your opinion with me, I would care about your opinion, but that might not necessarily be authentic to my preferences and my needs. That’s where I’m learning to prioritize that.
This is part of what I’m processing in therapy. It’s tricky for me. These situations give me an opportunity to think through them and reflect. When I woke up, I was hoping that I would have clarity. I wanted it because ideally, I would wake up and have a plan. It would have felt good to go to bed with a decision and with a plan. It was frustrating that my friend kept saying, “It’s up to you.” That drives me nuts because that puts pressure on me to decide and weigh out these variables. I like making decisions together. This is part of justice. I prefer a consensus.
With this particular friend, I haven’t been able to figure that out. My friend is a little too flexible for my comfort and preferences. I appreciate it, but when it comes to making decisions, it’s of no use to me when someone is super flexible. I much prefer it when someone says, “This is what I want.” That’s the authenticity. What do you want? That’s the big question. A lot of us don’t know. Maybe that’s because we’re out of alignment with our values. Maybe that’s what my therapist would say here.
Maybe our values are so dependent on other people that they become convoluted. I don’t blame my friend. I’m so neutral towards my friend in this situation. I’m not upset. It’s frustrating because we had a plan and the plan is not happening. That frustrates me, but that’s not anyone’s fault per se. It was how it happened in the communication, and that’s fine. It’s okay to be frustrated too.
Going back to the last two of my values, acceptance is huge. It’s what I indicated. I’m accepting that I’m no longer going to Martha’s Vineyard. As of the time of this recording, there’s still a possibility. It’s the morning. I could still go. The ferries run until the evening. I could change my mind and decide to go. There’s a part of me that still wants to. There’s a part of me that still has that hope. That part of me drives me nuts. I’m wondering whether I can ever shift that or that will always be there. That goes back to what I was saying about wanting to make a decision last night. For me, with my organized brain and my preference for plans, I could have made a decision last night, woken up this morning, and been gone. I woke up today and I still had to make the decision. I still had to tune into myself.
I remember waking up and looking out the window that is next to the bed in my childhood room at my parents’ house. It’s beautiful. The leaves are starting to turn colors. I’m looking out at this beautiful tree with green, orange, red and yellow colors. It’s a beautiful clear day. I thought, “It’s so peaceful and calming.” I’ve been enjoying looking at these trees. I’m taking them in as they’ve been changing. I thought, “Maybe I’ll have clarity right now at this peaceful moment.”
I haven’t had any input. I opened my eyes. The answer should be here and it wasn’t. That’s so frustrating too. I’m like, “Why doesn’t my brain work that way? Why isn’t it easy?” Maybe it’s not easy because I’m not in alignment. I don’t know. Maybe it’ll never be easy for me. Maybe this will always be the way it is. Does anyone ever feel like this stuff is easy? Is this easy for you? That’s what I would love to know. You don’t have to share your opinions on what I should or shouldn’t have done, but I would love to know. Do you struggle with this stuff too? Does this stuff feel easy to do? Could you have woken up or made a decision before you went to bed? I could have. I could have said, “I’m going to Martha’s Vineyard. It’s okay that I have to drive all the way back to get my dog.” That was on the table.
Maybe the fact that I couldn’t make a decision was a decision in itself. That is something I wonder about too. When you don’t know, not knowing tends to be a no. The word no is in there. It sounds counterintuitive because “I don’t know” sounds like it’s the opposite of no, and that should be a yes. For me, almost every time I feel on the fence, that means I’m not going to do something or I don’t want to do something. It’s like if somebody says maybe to you, it’s usually a no.
They say this about a lot of things in life. If it’s not a strong yes, it’s a no. I wish that would feel authentic to me but it doesn’t. What feels authentic to me is thinking things through. That was part of the frustration too. It takes me time to process. This came up in therapy. Maybe this is one of the other big lessons for me.If it's not a strong yes, it's a no. Click To Tweet
My brain works pretty slowly in a lot of situations. It works fast in some ways like technology. It works fast in some forms of problem-solving, but a lot of things in life take me quite a long period of time to decide. When I feel pressured to make a decision, I don’t always make a decision that feels authentic to me. It’s not fully in alignment with my values and strengths. My strength is thinking things through deeply and spending days on them. That was part of the challenge too of having 24 hours or less to make a decision. Maybe that should have been my no.
It’s interesting. I can’t figure out how to make this trip work in such a short period of time, so my decision has to be that I’m not going to go. Ultimately, that’s how this all turned out. In order for me to do the trip, I needed more time to process it. I needed more time to figure out what felt right for me, my dog, and the rest of my trip. Since I didn’t have that time, the answer had to be no. That’s the best way I can summarize how I came to the conclusion.
Asking For Your Needs To Be Met Isn’t Selfish
Something that I’m learning and is brand new with my therapy is it is okay if you take time to process. I’ve been told so much in my life to have to do things in other people’s timelines. That causes me a lot of stress and overwhelm because it doesn’t allow me to authentically go through my problem-solving, curiosity and thoughts. It doesn’t give me the opportunity to utilize technology to its depth and accept different situations. That doesn’t feel like it’s filled with justice if I’m being rushed because my brain needs a lot of time and patience.
Something else I’ve realized in therapy is I have a short amount of bandwidth. This is common for ADHD with the burnout side of things. It is common for people to have a burst of energy and then crash. It needed to lay in bed, recover and soothe. For me, I work in pulses. I never know when the energy is going to come for me. I don’t know if I need more dopamine, serotonin, or some burst of something to be able to do the next thing.
If I’m not giving myself a lot of those pauses to lie down, I love to bring my weighted blanket. That was something I was concerned about going to Martha’s Vineyard since it is 15 pounds. I’m like, “I’m not going to lug that thing on a ferry.” I was going to spend two nights at Martha’s Vineyard without my weighted blanket, then they tell me I can’t bring my dog who also is soothing for me, I was bummed. That’s the thing. One of the traits of autism is needing to be soothed. A lot of comfort and pressure are important.
I had my backup. I use the Hug Sleep Pod, which, I’m going to be honest, does not cut it as a replacement for my weighted blanket. With the weighted blanket, I’m going to go lay down under it as soon as I’m done recording this episode. That’s how I soothe myself. The pressure of my dog on my chest or next to my body is so soothing. Without those things, I could feel like getting nervous. It’s going to be dysregulated.
I’m often dysregulated when I’m traveling in general. Even though I love traveling, I have accommodations for myself, which I talked a lot about when I traveled to Costa Rica and Singapore. I did episodes on each of those trips and talked about my accommodations. I realized all the things that I need. I need sound accommodations when I sleep. I need light accommodations when I sleep. I need a lot. Sleep in itself is a whole variable. That’s probably why I get nervous about doing trips like this. If I don’t know where I’m going to be sleeping and what pillow and blanket I’m going to have, this is hard for me.
This is why I bury a lot of this stuff. Maybe that stuff was under the surface too with this trip of realizing I wasn’t going to have all these comforts that make such a huge difference. I get nervous about not sleeping, and the ripple effect it causes. My brain starts panicking. It is no wonder that with this trip, I started to get so nervous and uncomfortable because I wasn’t going to have my needs met. I’m used to people in life overlooking my needs or putting off my needs saying, “You don’t need that.” Maybe that’s why I even say that. I’m like, “Do I need this or do I just want this?” I lack that clarity there too.
The more I’m talking about it, it’s okay for those to be needs. What if they are needs? It’s okay that I need a weighted blanket, a specific pillow, sound, the light blocked, and my dog next to me. I know that I’m going to get eight hours. I know that I am going to get the food. All these things that I’ve been thinking about, it’s okay that I need those things. It’s okay that other people don’t. It’s just that in this situation, I’m recognizing that I didn’t know how much of my needs were going to happen. I didn’t know how much I was going to have to accept letting go of certain needs. I didn’t know if my needs were going to be even accepted.
The needs that I was able to have accommodations for this short trip, and I didn’t even know if other people would accept them. The details I can go into feel almost embarrassing. I’ve talked about this too. I have sleep challenges. I’m still trying to figure that out. That’s part of my therapy. I’m going to a neurologist. I have so much to figure out with my sleep. Maybe that’s a bigger role in all of this too. If I don’t know what my sleep environment is going to be like on a trip, I get uncomfortable.
There have been plenty of times I’ve slept on couches. I’ve had screaming kids around. I was anticipating that might be the case. I didn’t feel comfortable asking my friend all these details because I thought this friend was going to overlook them. I’m used to people being like, “Why do you need to know all this stuff?” People get irritated with me asking a lot of questions, so I tend not to ask them. If I don’t get answers, I feel super anxious, and then all these variables come in.
It has been interesting to share this out loud on this episode because I’m like, “I didn’t want to go,” versus on the surface level, when you compare that to the Vancouver Island trip, I somehow knew that all my needs were going to be met and accepted, and they were. That Vancouver trip went off without a hitch. It was smooth sailing. I took the ferries there, paid a lot of money for them, and stayed for a very short period of time. You would think maybe that wasn’t worth it, but it was so comforting and safe.
When I look back on that Vancouver trip, I think of nothing but joy and ease. It was so lovely. It is no wonder I’ve been dreading Martha’s Vineyard trip because the variables of not getting my needs met were so uncomfortable. As an adult who’s learning to acknowledge my needs and get my accommodations, I’m also learning that it’s okay not to do things where my needs won’t be met.It's okay not to do things where your needs won't be met. Click To Tweet
I saw something about this on TikTok, which is a great source of information in a lot of ways. I wish I could pull it up quickly enough to address it. Maybe it was in the book. I started listening to the audiobook, Unmasking Autism, which I heard about through TikTok. People are raving about this book. I’ve only listened to 10 or 15 minutes of it thus far. Perhaps it was in that book. I don’t know what source it was at this point.
Whatever reason somebody like myself has these needs, it is so common for people to not understand them and to push them aside. Sadly, I grew up with a lot of my needs being pushed aside. I’ve spent so much of my life thinking I should be embarrassed about my needs, and that I need to put my needs aside for other people. When I look at my values, that doesn’t tie into justice. This is what my therapist was saying about justice. My interpretation was that neurodivergent people tend to have a strong desire for justice because they haven’t felt like they’ve been treated fairly, including myself.
I’m going through so much in my life feeling like people put their needs and desires over mine. I became so used to that that I just let it go. I’ve equated that if I ask for my needs to be met, that’s selfish. I want justice, so I’m not going to be selfish. I’m going to let them get their way. In a way, that’s not justified either because that means they’re getting their way and not me. How is that balance? How is that equal or fair? It’s interesting to me.
How big of a deal is it to ask, “I need to know where I’m sleeping and how much sleep I’m going to get because sleep is important to me. I already have trouble sleeping. I need to make sure that my dietary needs are met. Do I need to bring my own food so I can feel satisfied?” There are all those things. No wonder this trip felt so stressful. Until you give yourself the opportunity to examine why something feels off, sometimes, this simple and basic stuff can go unmet.
I’m getting to the point where I’d rather miss out on things. It happened in a small way. I had to make a smaller decision. There was a concert happening nearby my parents. I was within ten minutes of them. It was at this cool place in Massachusetts that I’ve always enjoyed going to. It is a historical area. This musician that I loved in college was playing right down the street. I saw that and thought, “This is so cool. I have to go to this concert,” and then I forgot about it. A few days before the concert, I remembered. I looked it up and the tickets had sold out. I thought, “It’s only ten minutes away. Maybe I’ll go down there and they’ll have a ticket available.
It became complicated because I had my well-being coaching training at the same time as the concert. You would think that in itself would be like, “I can’t go,” but in my head, I’m thinking, “I could skip class. I could catch up,” or “I could go to a part of the class.” With that being one of the final nights I was supposed to be at my parents, I started also worrying that if I went to the concert, I wouldn’t get as much time with my parents. If I had known I wasn’t going to end up going to Martha’s Vineyard, maybe I would’ve gone to the concert.
I’m bringing that up because it was a hard decision for me to make. I ultimately didn’t go. I felt bombed. It was one of the days I had therapy. I remember after that therapy session, I was crying. I was listening to music. At that moment, I still was trying to decide if I was going to go to the concert because my therapy session was a few hours ahead of time. I’m like, “I’m going to use this values list,” but I was so emotional about missing out on it.
I thought to myself, “I’ve seen this musician in concert. I can listen to this musician’s music right now on my phone. What’s authentic to me is going to class and staying committed to that plan. That feels like justice. That feels like a caring thing to do.” Also, I wanted to spend time with my parents. That felt most authentic even though I missed out on something else that I would’ve loved to do. Even though I was curious about that situation, I ultimately accepted that what was pulling me was to stay at home and go to class. That’s tricky.
The other huge element that I’m learning talking through all this is I don’t do well with complexities and variables. If something doesn’t feel easy, then maybe it’s not authentic. It is easy that an authentic decision comes versus a forced decision. It’s tough. When I learn more about this, I can share more. I feel like I am still gaining clarity in what this all means. I still don’t feel 100%.
The Value Of Acceptance
My therapist also has reminded me that it’s okay. This has come up a lot. These are big themes for me. It’s okay to make the wrong decision. We will make the wrong decisions. We will make mistakes. It’s not always going to play out perfectly even if we know our values and our strengths. Even if we tune into what’s best for us, we still might feel like we did or made the wrong decision. That acceptance is part of my process too.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this. I would love to hear from you. I always say that. The connection with you is crucial because I care about you. That value applies to you too. I truly care and I am deeply grateful. I feel like it’s fair and equitable to hear from you and to understand your feelings. That’s exactly why I made Beyond Measure.
If you didn’t know about it yet, Beyond Measure is a community I developed in 2020 out of the desire to have authentic, caring, accepting, curious, and justified conversations. All my values are tied to Beyond Measure. It also came out of experiences with meeting amazing people through my work on social media and YouTube that I wanted to deeply connect with. I was recognizing that social media did not feel like an authentic place. It didn’t feel like a caring place. I wanted to weed out all the noise of the non-caring, not accepting people that I would often come across on social media and YouTube, so I developed Beyond Measure. It has become a place that is fully aligned with my values and other people’s values. It has been lovely.
I bring that up because that is the number one place I would love to connect with you and hear from you because it’s done in real-time. There are two elements to Beyond Measure. We have weekly calls. That’s the main focus of it. Every week, we have a time when we meet on Zoom and talk about a certain subject matter that’s outlined. We talk about finances, creativity and self-care.
We also have a monthly group accountability session where everybody goes off and works on something that they’ve been either procrastinating or haven’t felt like they’ve had enough time to focus on. They need somebody to encourage them. Those could be basic things like household chores that you’ve been procrastinating on or a project. It’s something that feels hard to you, but knowing that there are other people holding space.
There’s a term I’ve seen a lot on TikTok for this. It’s called body doubling where usually, you watch somebody else do an activity like chores that you’ve been dreading. By watching them, you feel permission to do it yourself. In a way, our monthly session is like that, but most people don’t have their cameras or audio on. We silently go do our own things, come back, check in with each other, and share. It has been amazing.
The people that are part of Beyond Measure, I have gotten to know on such a deep level. That’s what I want. That’s authentic to me. If you want to come and join us, I haven’t started charging for it. It’s something that I want to add some financial fee or some exchange element. It’s not a priority because it is not something I’m going to use for financial profit or gain. That’s not my intention, but I have expenses involved like paying for Zoom and the platform we use to communicate. Every month, I’m charged for those things, so I want to have a little membership due that covers those costs. It also allows me to maybe have some money to invest in some other things.
It has been free for years. It’s still free. Depending on when you read this, it’s likely still free or very low cost. I would love to have you part of it and get to know you, hear your thoughts, and hold space for you. You hold space for me by tuning in to this show. Doing an episode like this is so nourishing and helpful for me. I want to give back as much as possible. That’s part of the justice side of things for me. I hope that I’m using the word justice right. That’s what justice means to me. It is equality and fairness. They all feel similar.
If Beyond Measure is not for you, that’s okay. Email and direct messages on social media are also wonderful places to connect. A lot of people like to reach out to me on Instagram, specifically. You can reach me either at the Wellevatr account for this show, which is @Wellevatr, or my personal account, which is @WhitLauritsen. Both of them are on Instagram. I only go on those platforms to read messages. Every once in a while, I post something, but 99% of the time I spend on Instagram is communicating with people like you. Email is fantastic, too. My email address is on the website at Wellevatr.com. It is easy for you to find and connect with me.
If you don’t feel like connecting, that’s okay too. I just want to extend my appreciation to you and let you know that you are very much part of this and valued. I’ll leave it at that. I have an episode coming up themed around romantic relationships, how health and longevity tie into relationships, how to find balance, and how to work through tough times in relationships. I hope you will tune into that and/or one of the upcoming episodes.
I already recorded the next episode, which is Halloween-themed. It was my trip to Salem, Massachusetts. These episodes have that correlation with the Massachusetts travel. I have so many cool guests coming up for you. I’m thrilled. I’ve recorded with the next three guests already. I find so much joy in bringing these amazing people into your life too. Stay tuned. Subscribe if you would like to be reminded of when these episodes come out on Mondays and Fridays. I will see you then. Bye for now.
- Episode – What I’ve Been Learning from Therapy (and Coaching)
- Unmasking Autism
- Beyond Measure
- @Wellevatr – Instagram
- @WhitLauritsen – Instagram
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